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KNIGHTS TEMPLAR

An extract from Armies and Enemies of the Crusades 1096-1291
by Ian Heath



[Based on a Map of Jerusalem c.1200] [Based on a Fresco at Cressac] [Based on Chronica Majora by Matthew Paris]

22, 23 & 24.      KNIGHTS TEMPLAR

An avid admirer of the Templars, St Bernard de Clairvaux, proudly wrote in the 12th century that they were ill-kempt and unwashed, with their beards wild and their hair cropped short, Ďreeking of dust, soiled by their armour and the heatí; the Victorian adage about cleanliness being next to Godliness clearly had no place here!

22 is taken from a map of Jerusalem dating to c. 1170. He wears a long, white surcoat and carries a white shield with a red cross painted on it. A cross-embroidered surcoat, apparently adopted by the Templars relatively early in their history (some authorities mention cloaks), replaced the cassock on active service; this was white except for confrere brethren and sergeants, the latter of whom wore surcoats of black, or brown or some other plain colour. In fact a second figure in the same source wears a dark but otherwise identical surcoat to that worn here and, despite no cross being apparent on his shield, he may well represent a sergeant. In all cases the cross was red.

23 comes from frescoes of a similar date in the French church of Cressac, depicting Templars fighting Saracens. He appears to wear either a long-sleeved surcoat or some form of cassock over his armour, though others wear more typical sleeveless surcoats. The mixture of dress and the absence of beards where chins are visible, together with the personal heraldry apparent on some shields (as here), tends to suggest that these frescoes may depict a mixture of knights, sergeants and confrere brethren. However it should be noted that it is not known for certain how early Templar shields were decorated, though it is probable (since some means of identification would have been necessary from the very earliest days) that they carried crosses from the very beginning. However, extant versions of the Orderís Rule which probably predate 1147 state that no decoration may be added to brethrenís shields or lances, but probably this refers only to personal heraldry. 23a depicts a Templar shield as it appears in the best-known Templar seals, though probably shields such as those carried by 8 and 22 were more common; the diagonal arms are probably strengthening bars.

However 24, who is based on an illustration of Templars in Matthew Parisí mid-13th century Chronica Majora, carries an alternative type of shield, painted black and white like the Orderís banner Bauceant (see 27a and b).

Regulation arms consisted of lance, sword, dagger, mace and shield. In addition all armour comprising hauberk, chausses, helmet and later foot and shoulder pieces was official issue. One interesting point regarding armour is that amongst the Military Orders mail mittens with separate fingers were apparently forbidden as being a luxury!



Next: 25 & 26. KNIGHTS HOSPITALLER in Armies and Enemies of the Crusades 1096-1291 by Ian Heath
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